by Michaela Burwell-Taylor
In August of 2011, I started a personal project of photographing Hyde Park. What I did not expect to get out of this project was a connection between place and one person in particular. The buildings were my initial start, but something was going on in Hyde Park at the time that excluded the buildings. I began to notice multiple demolition sites, piles of ruble and vacant lots. Sure, you see this all over the city — but who has to look out the window everyday at it is the real question.
On this particular day I had the 4×5 camera out. This camera is always a catalyst for conversation and it sparked one of the most touching stories I ever heard. While photographing this hay covered corner lot, I met this woman. She proceeded to tell me that she was the one who put out the hay.
The simple act of putting out hay on a vacant lot is no big deal, but she did not have to do this. This was not her job. However, she lived down the street from the vacant lot and wanted to see grass grow there. This was the start of a conversation in which I listened and she told. By the end of our conversation I found out that every day she saw another building being demolished. I could tell that part of her wanted to leave and part of her wanted to stay. All too often citizens on the north side have been given that choice. Keep the hope, or leave. Fight for you community, or move on. Not every citizen has a choice when it comes to what they see out of their window. Here are some of the buildings that she may have seen fall.
Michaela Burwell-Taylor served as a Preservation Research Office intern from January 2011 through May 2012.